adhd and trauma 2

adhd and trauma 2

Understanding ADHD and Trauma: The Basics


ADHD and Trauma share a lot of similarities and connections, but also differences. One of the main differences is that ADHD comes from inside the body and brain while trauma originates from the outside.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental difference mainly caused by genetics—meaning it runs in families—and involves differences in brain structure and function.

Trauma results from events that lead to feelings of helplessness and a lack of safety. Significant Trauma can lead to PTSD, a syndrome where the person relives the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares, feels on edge, or avoids things that remind them of the Trauma. Not everyone who experiences Trauma develops PTSD. However, studies show that ADHD people are more likely to develop PTSD.

PTSD and ADHD: A Closer Look

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD, might  develop after a  deeply distressing or life-threatening experience . If you have  PTSD you may find yourself  frequently plagued by powerful, upsetting thoughts and emotionsabout the traumatic thing. Not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD.

Complex Trauma: Beyond PTSD

Complex Trauma comes from exposure to multiple traumatic events, often during childhood, like ongoing abuse or neglect. It's like PTSD + . CPTSD leads This  to problems with emotions, relationships, and self-image- more than just PTSD. For someone with ADHD, who may already find emotional regulation challenging, complex Trauma makes these struggles more severe.


Unfortunately, people with ADHD might face more situations that can lead to Trauma. This doesn't mean ADHD causes Trauma, but they are at higher risk for things that cause Trauma: being mistreated or being bullied and abused, having accidents, or having harm come to or be done to them.

Does Trauma Make ADHD Worse?

Trauma can make ADHD "symptoms worse" by:

  • Making emotional regulation worse.

  • Causing more problems with Sleep.

  • Increasing impulsivity.

  • Causing more shame and social isolation.

  • Causing more nervous system dysregulation.

  • Causing more executive functioning issues.

Does ADHD make Trauma worse?

ADHD can make dealing with Trauma harder because:

  • ADHD people have emotional regulation issues, making it hard to feel calm when dealing with Trauma.
  • Treatment strategies haven't been developed to address both adequately.
  • ADHD people are often revictimized.
  • ADHD people have more dysregulation in their nervous systems
  • ADHD people have less support
  • Remembering and making sense of traumatic events can be confusing because of ADHD's impact on memory.
  • Finding the correct diagnosis gets tricky because ADHD and trauma symptoms can look alike.
  • Substance use can often enter the picture.


Is It ADHD or Trauma? What's your diagnosis

Another common issue, especially with women, is getting the correct diagnosis. As we know, women can take decades to get the correct diagnosis, and often, when trauma enters the picture, it makes it harder to get a correct diagnosis of ADHD.

Let's see how these symptoms look the same and how they might be different. ADHD and Trauma both can both make it hard to focus, control emotions, or feel calm. But the cause is  different:

  • ADHD is present from birth.

  • Trauma responses are reactions to outside events that happen later. Understanding the source of the symptoms is crucial for the proper treatment.

Differentiating between CPTSD and ADHD

You can see some of the overlap in symptoms of CPTSD and ADHD below and some of the differences. It's a complicated picture and one that isn't easy to untangle.


adhd and cptsd

Does Trauma cause ADHD? Understanding Epigenetics ADHD and Trauma

Epigenetics is about how your environment can change how your genes work. For example, Trauma can cause changes that might affect how the ADHD genes are expressed, but it doesn't change the genes themselves. This means the environment, like experiencing Trauma, can influence how ADHD shows up in someone. Sometimes, people seem to confuse epigenetics and say that Trauma causes adhd. That's not true.

Gabor Maté and the ADHD-Trauma Discourse

Gabor Maté, a physician known for his work on addiction, stress, and childhood development, posits that many adult challenges, including ADHD symptoms, can be traced back to early environmental influences and Trauma. While his perspectives offer valuable insights into addressing Trauma, it's crucial to understand that ADHD's roots are neurodevelopmental. Gabor Mate's claims about ADHD are behind some of the confusion people have about trauma-causing adhd. Currently, we don't have any information that trauma causes adhd. 

Deep dive into the Research on ADHD and PTSD

The search for specific statistics on the prevalence of Trauma among adults with ADHD and their risk for developing PTSD has yielded the following relevant findings:

  1. Lifetime Prevalence of PTSD in ADHD adults: A significant study noted in PubMed highlights that the lifetime prevalence of PTSD was markedly higher among adults with ADHD compared with controls (10.0% vs. 1.6%; P = .004) (source). This suggests a substantial increase in the risk of PTSD among individuals with ADHD compared to the general population.
  2. Association Between ADHD Symptoms and PTSD: Research published in ScienceDirect found that PTSD was related to the level of ADHD symptoms even after adjusting for age, sex, and severity of Trauma. The study did not provide a specific prevalence rate but confirmed the correlation between ADHD symptoms and the occurrence of PTSD, emphasizing the impact of ADHD symptoms on the likelihood of developing PTSD (source).
  3. Increased Risk for PTSD in ADHD: WebMD reports that individuals with ADHD are four times more likely to also have PTSD, and twice as likely to develop ADHD when they have PTSD. This underscores the interrelated risk and suggests a significant overlap in the brain changes and symptomatology between the two conditions (source).
  4. Prevalence Rates and Misconceptions: An article from Neurodivergent Insights discusses common misconceptions about PTSD development following significant Trauma. It notes that while an estimated 50-60% of people experience significant Trauma, the development of PTSD is not a universal outcome, suggesting that the interplay between ADHD and PTSD is more complex and may involve additional factors (source).


What It Means to You

Understanding the interplay between ADHD and Trauma is crucial for recognizing the need for tailored treatment approaches that address both conditions' complexities. For those navigating these challenges, it's essential to understand that your experiences are valid and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

What You Can Do to Care for Yourself

  1. Seek Professional Support: Find a therapist skilled in handling both ADHD and Trauma. A thorough assessment is crucial to determine the most pressing issues and appropriate treatment strategies.
  2. Educate Yourself and Others: Understanding the nature of your experiences can empower you and help reduce the stigma associated with these conditions.
  3. Self-Care Practices: Engage in activities that promote relaxation and emotional regulation. This might include mindfulness, exercise, or creative pursuits.
  4. Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with people who understand and support your journey. Support groups for ADHD and trauma survivors can be invaluable sources of comfort and solidarity.
  5. Advocate for Personalized Treatment: Ensure your treatment plan is tailored to your unique needs, incorporating medication, therapy (like EMDR or somatic practices), and other supports as necessary.

Empowering Your Journey

Navigating ADHD and Trauma is a deeply personal and often challenging journey. However, understanding the interconnections between these experiences and adopting a proactive approach to treatment and self-care can lead to significant improvements in well-being and quality of life. Remember, you are not alone, and with the right support and strategies, you can navigate these challenges with strength and resilience.

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